July 22, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — University of Notre Dame men’s swimming head coach Matt Tallman has much to be excited about heading into the 2015-16 schoolyear. First, incoming freshman Daniel Speers won two medals (one gold one silver) at the first-ever European Games, then sophomore sprinter Justin Plaschka clinched four medals of his own at the Caribbean Championships, swimming for the Jamaican team.
“We are very excited for Dan and the rest of our team members competing this summer; an experience like this will only help enhance his value to our program,” says Tallman. “We have been looking forward to his arrival, and he and his fellow incoming classmates are going to help us take the next step towards our goals.”
Amongst those fellow incoming classmates are top U.S. freestyler Tabahn Afrik, breaststroker Ben Gorski and butterflier Matt Grauslys. The class is the second largest in program history with 10 members total, and was recently ranked No. 9 by swimswam.com (full article here).
In addition to winning gold with the men’s 4x100m free relay (see full video and story here) Speers posted a 53.93 time in the 100m free and swam in the prelims of the mixed (men’s and women’s) 4x100m free relay. While he didn’t swim in the finals of the event, the British team finished second (3:32.65), earning Speers a silver medal in the process.
Speers finished his trip to Baku swimming in the 50m free, which saw him place 25th (23.62). Overall, Great Britain finished the Games having won 47 medals, the third-most of any country represented (Russia won the most with 164).
The European Games was an amazing event; it was organized extremely well, and the athletes were treated like royalty with police escorts to and from the venues,” says Speers. “Being part of an international multi-sport event like that was a real eye opener for me in terms of what it takes to be successful at the highest level, and I have few ideas of the kind of things I need to be doing next year at Notre Dame in order to be competitive at that level.”
Plaschka, who holds dual citizenship in both the U.S. and Jamaica, won three gold medals and one silver medal at the 29th annual Central American and Caribbean Swimming Championships (CCCAN). He nearly had an opportunity to swim in the finals of the 50M free also, but was just shy of qualifying with his ninth place, 24.40 time.
Plaschka swam in the finals of five events — the 100M and 200M free, the 50M back, and the 50M and 100M fly events. In freestyle, his 52.90 showing in the 100M was good for third in the prelims, where he went on to win gold in the finals with his 52.09 time. In the 200M race, there were no preliminary heats, and Plaschka swam a 1:56.52 to earn silver.
In the 50M back, Plaschka advanced to the finals on the strength of his 27.68 prelim time, and finished fourth (27.04) in the final race. In the fly events, he qualified with the second-fastest prelim time of the 50M field (25.86) and third-fastest prelim mark (57.40) in the 100M. He won both events finals heats (24.89 in the 50M, 55.25 in the 100M), bringing his final medal haul to four.
In addition to winning 100M fly, Plaschka’s time of 55.25 set the Jamaican senior record in the event, besting the previous mark of 55.56 that was set merely last year.
The next major event for the Irish in the summer months is the U.S. National meet, held August 6-10 at the Northside Swim Center in San Antonio, Texas.
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